The Starry Messenger

Previewed 16 May 2019, Opened 29 May 2019, Closed 10 August 2019 at the Wyndham's Theatre

The West End premiere of Kenneth Lonergan's play The Starry Messenger in London starring Matthew Broderick and Elizabeth McGovern for a strictly limited season

Mark Williams is lost. An astronomer at New York City's Planetarium, he feels a closer connection to the infinite, starry sky than to his job or even to his wife, Anne. Mark doesn't believe in fate or divine intervention, but the universe has other ideas. After a chance meeting with Angela, a young single mother, the stars appear to have aligned. But when a catastrophic event rips through their lives, Mark is forced to re-evaluate his life, his faith and his place in the universe itself. In the vastness of the universe are we all just lonely souls under the same night sky?

The cast features Matthew Broderick as 'Mark' and Elizabeth McGovern as 'Anne', with Jim Norton as 'Norman', Jenny Galloway as 'Mrs Pysner', Rosalind Eleazar as 'Angela', Sinead Matthews as 'Doris', Sid Sagar as 'Ian', and Joplin Sibtain as 'Arnold'. Directed by Sam Yates with designs by Chiara Stephenson, and music and sound by Alex Baranowski.

When this production opened here at the Wyndham's Theatre in May 2019, Ann Treneman in the Times explained that "this is a slow-moving but deadly accurate comic drama about life, the universe and everything there is to know about a mid-life crisis. Sam Yates directs and holds his nerve for the pace... There are laughs, real ones that you remember, but you have to wait for them. The whole star-studded affair is almost three hours long but I didn't even notice and, for me, that is saying something." Neil Norman in the Daily Express wrote that "Matthew Broderick faces the actor's greatest challenge: how to make a boring character interesting. Kenneth Lonergan's play is beautifully written while Broderick brings a stealthy humour and sharp timing to the role that enhances the production... However, the meandering story is too loosely-constructed to sustain its three hours running time." Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail described how Matthew Broderick "does a low-status star turn as a middle-aged astronomer... not many people could carry off this role. But Broderick somehow manages to be colourfully dull - the looks of Gregory Peck and the manners of Niles from Frasier. He has an endearing way of doing one thing at a time. Thinking. Talking. Offering a smile." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph highlighted how "Matthew Broderick acquits himself well enough as the self-effacing mid-lifer... he impresses but he's unable to suggest much inner life beneath the forlorn composure; that's the nature of the character rather than a limitation of the performance... Sam Yates's production is so low-heat that the staff at Wyndham's Theatre don't need to worry about switching on the air-con this summer." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard thought that "Matthew Broderick brings a mix of quizzical humour and gentle despair to astronomy teacher Mark... but it's hard to be sure what the play is really about, and the languid approach makes for three hours of nebulous theatre." Matt Wolf in the i newspaper commented how "Sam Yates's production is equal parts intriguing and irritating, and Matthew Broderick's singular theatrical deadpan may alienate as many people as it attracts... Broderick has a unique gift for seeming to stand outside the very role he is inhabiting until such moments as he connects with genuine force. The Starry Messenger may be a bit of a curate's egg, but when it comes to leading men there really isn't anyone quite like this one." Michael Billington in the Guardian said that, even though Kenneth Lonergan's "10-year-old play is wryly observant, it is too discursive to make great drama... Matthew Broderick, who has a look of ageing boyishness, invests Mark with the right sense of troubled quietude and dry humour... Sam Yates directs with due care but, for all its perceptiveness, I felt Lonergan's play would work even better on the screen."

Matthew Broderick is making his long-awaited London West End stage debut in this production. His numerous film credits include the role of 'Colonel Robert Gould Shaw' in 1989's Glory; 'Alan' in 1988's Torch Song Trilogy; the title role in 1986's Ferris Bueller's Day Off; and 'David Lightman' in 1983's War Games. His numerous New York Broadway theatre credits include two Tony award-winning performances: 'Best Actor in a Musical' for his role as 'J. Pierrepont Finch' in Frank Loesser's musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in 1995; and 'Best Featured Actor in a Play' for his role as 'Eugene Jerome' in Neil Simon's play Brighton Beach Memoirs at the Alvin Theatre (Neil Simon Theatre) in 1983.

Elizabeth McGovern is probably best known for a role as 'Lady Cora' in ITV television's period drama series Downton Abbey. Her West End stage credits include the role of 'Judith Brown' in Kevin Spacey's production of Joe Sutton's play Complicit at the Old Vic Theatre in 2009.

Jim Norton's London stage credits include the role of 'Mr Perry' in the original cast of Conor McPherson's production of his own play Girl From the North Country at the Old Vic Theatre in 2017; the role of 'Ding-Ding' in Robert Delamere's 2005 West End premiere of Owen McCafferty's comedy Shoot The Crow at the Trafalgar Studios; Conor McPherson's Port Authority at the Ambassadors Theatre in 2001; and the role of 'Brother Martin Ladvenu' in Ronald Eyre's 1984 revival of George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan starring Frances de la Tour in the title role at the National Theatre.

Jenny Galloway's West End stage credits include 'Charlotte' in Michael Grandage's revival of Yukio Mishima's play Madame de Sade for the Donmar Warehouse at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2009; 'Mrs Brill' in the original cast of Richard Eyre's production of the Disney stage musical Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre in 2004; 'Rosie' in the original cast of Phyllida Lloyd's productionof the ABBA musical Mamma Mia! at the Prince Edward Theatre in 1999; 'Widow Corney' in the original cast of Sam Mendes' revival of the Lionel Bart musical Oliver! at the London Palladium in 1994; and 'Luce' in Judi Dench's revival of the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical comedy The Boys From Syracuse at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in 1991. She has also played the role 'Madame Thenardier' in Trevor Nunn and John Caird production of the musical Les Miserables for a number of seasons at both the Palace Theatre and the Queen's Theatre.

Kenneth Lonergan's plays seen in the West End include Lobby Hero at the Donmar Warehouse and Ambassadors Theatre in 2002; and This is Our Youth at the Garrick Theatre in 2002.

"Matthew Broderick is cast as astronomy lecturer Mark, in a role written for him in this gentle and beautifully staged comedy drama. Mark is bored at work, has a fractious relationship with his teenage son and his marriage to Anne is bogged down in domesticity and worry about ageing parents. Enter young single mother Angela, bringing a rather improbable entanglement - and then tragedy. At times Broderick seems almost too restrained, and the dialogue a little ponderous, although some cracking one-liners explode like shooting stars. But the actual star of this A-list cast is the scene-stealing Rosalind Eleazar, giving a heart rending performance as Angela." The Sunday Mirror

"Matthew Broderick's character here, Mark, is a bit of a bore: undemonstrative, a plodder of 52 whose marriage to Anne has shrivelled. Mark meets Angela, a much younger single mother. She, inexplicably, falls for him. The danger with intentionally prosaic characters is that they make a play slow. Sam Yates, directing, offers little relief by way of ingenuity. The production is competent, its staging doggedly realistic... As for Broderick, he is earnest about portraying Mark's stodginess, but, boy, he makes it bready. Our thoughts may be supposed to fly to higher spheres, but mine were stuck on terra firma. An inoffensive evening, swiftly forgotten." The Sunday Times

"This deft play, first seen in 2009, wraps up notions of love, loss, aspiration, free will and death amid the cosmos, played out here under starry skies... In the central role for the second time, with slightly nerdy intonation and turn of phrase, Matthew Broderick overcomes the problem of portraying a bored, overly passive and emotionally unengaged man who only believes in things that can be proved scientifically without making him boring to watch. He has clearly grown into the part. Gentle and subtle as this all is, it's on the wordy side, and Sam Yates's production suffers from an underpowered first half. Eventually, though, Broderick's performance takes hold and helps us realise that we all have a place and significance in the universe." The Mail on Sunday

The Starry Messenger in London at the Wyndham's Theatre previewed from 16 May 2019, opened on 29 May 2019, and closed on 10 August 2019